Category Archives: Hedley Times

The Grahams of Hedley

Maggie Graham Pitkethly (photo taken in 1970)

Over the years I’ve heard plenty of speculation by Hedley oldtimers as to how Bill and Maggie Graham found the means to purchase the Colonial Inn after the mine closed. Maggie had worked as a housekeeper for the mine. Bill had operated an ore crusher in the Stamp Mill at the base of the mountain. It was generally known they had not come with money. Since none of the speculations could be verified, I decided they were a rural version of urban myth.

When I learned recently the Grahams’ daughter Maureen and her husband Campbell Dirksen live in Keremeos, I immediately called them and asked if they would talk with Linda and me.

In their comfortable home with a spectacular view of the valley and mountains, we enjoyed Maureen’s rich blend of coffee and delightful blueberry scones. We would learn she and Campbell have an impressive grasp of details from the past.

My dad, Bill Graham came from Scotland,” Maureen told us at the outset. “Mom was born in Hedley in 1909, in the house that still stands at the corner of Daly and Irene. Her father, Anton Winkler, owned several hotels, including the Grand Union, one of 6 in town. Over the years all burned down. My parents were married in 1935.”

The Inn was purchased first by Dr. Moore, a dentist who used it for his practice. When the mine shut down operations in 1955, the miners mostly moved on. Having few clients in town, Dr. Moore sold the Inn to the Grahams about a year and a half later.

Where did they get that amount of money?” I asked, hoping they could shed light on this local mystery.

Dad asked the Kelowna Exploration Company for permission to clean up the dust left behind from the mining operation,” Maureen said. “He was the only one who thought there must be gold in that dust. They gave him a profit sharing contract.”

Campbell picked up the story. “With a broom and wheel barrow, he swept up the dust in the Stamp Mill. He removed the floor boards and swept under them. All told, he collected enough dust to fill 8 tram line cars. He had it sent by train from Princeton to Everett, Washington. It took 3 years.”

It turned out there was a lot of gold in all that dust,” Maureen recalled. “Even after the mine got its share, my parents were able to buy the Inn and also send me and my brother to college in Vancouver.”

Bill and Maggie ran the Inn as a lodge and restaurant. Maureen has warm memories of working in the kitchen with her red headed, vivacious Mom. “She taught me everything I know. I baked 12 loaves of bread every day. People wanted to buy them but we needed them all. Our blueberry pies were very popular. We received letters from all over the world from satisfied guests.”

Famous people like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Governor Generals, and former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas came by for a meal and sometimes stayed overnight.

One time Bing Crosby said we should have a juke box. Mom teased him, saying she wouldn’t have any Bing Crosby records in it anyway. She was good with people. Very friendly and she always remembered names of guests when they returned. She often picked up hitch hikers and brought them to the restaurant and gave them a meal. Sometimes she put them up overnight.”

Eight years after buying the Inn, the Grahams also acquired the Coach House, located at the rear of the property, near the Stamp Mill. “People were removing doors and windows and other items,” Campbell said. “It required a lot of repairs.” Unfortunately in 1971, Kelowna Exploration Co. had the iconic stamp mill burned due to liability concerns.

Bill died of cancer in 1968. About 5 years later Maggie married David Pitkethly, a wealthy businessman who stopped regularly for a meal at the Colonial Inn.

In July, 1975 Maggie and Maureen were collecting rocks on a mountainside. Without warning, a large boulder broke loose above them and came hurtling down toward the two women. Without thought for her own safety, Maggie pushed Maureen out of its path. She didn’t have time to get out of the way herself and was killed instantly.

At the end of our conversation with the Dirksens, Linda and I were convinced Bill and Maggie Graham played a significant role in Similkameen history. Their story is authentic, not an urban or rural myth.

Foundation Fosters Change

Gerry & Julie Beauchemin, a “Foundation” success story.

There was at one time a small cabal of disgruntled elderly men in Hedley who wanted local people to believe the One Way Adventure Foundation was a cult. I would have been interested in their reaction had they been present when Gerry and Julie Beauchemin told Linda and me about the impact of the “Foundation” on their lives.

I’m surprised I’m alive today,” Gerry began. Sitting beside him on the couch in their Penticton home, Julie nodded and said, “I was mixing drugs and alcohol. I wanted to slowly and surely die. I hoped to escape life.”

The organization was established in Surrey in 1973 by Len and Jean Roberts, who until recently lived in Princeton. Their goal was to engage troubled teens in challenging activities, develop positive relationships and point them to a more productive life. They purchased the Hedley property to provide housing and free the youths from unhealthy city distractions and influences.

For Gerry, as with a lot of youths in care, home was not a sanctuary. “My mom died of cancer when I was 10,” he said. “Dad married a woman who had 2 kids. She didn’t like me. Her kids could do no wrong, I could do no right. Dad was away at work a lot and my life began unraveling. Pretty soon only kids with their own home problems would accept me. We stole cars and did B & E’s.”

Deeming him out of control in the community, his Probation Officer sent Gerry to the House of Concord in Langley, then to Outward Bound, at that time near Keremeos. Things didn’t improve and out of desperation Gerry was sent to the Foundation’s Surrey location. For 8 months he lived in a staff home, which he preferred over his parents’ home. He participated in the program but continued to create havoc with his street friends. “That’s why Len sent me to Hedley,” he said with just the hint of a smile.

For Julie, home was not a sanctuary either. “My dad was a problem for me,” she said. “I didn’t feel safe around him. Mom kept quiet. My brothers and I tried to poison her. I roamed the streets with a knife up my sleeve. Alcohol, and medications I stole from drug stores dulled my inner pain. When I OD’d, the Fire Department saved my life. ”

Julie’s chaotic, unruly street lifestyle prompted her harried PO to send her to Hedley. “We did rappelling, rock climbing and chimneying,” she said, “also a 2 week canoe expedition on the Bowron Lakes.”

When I turned 17,” she continued, “my P.O. put me in the Foundation’s adult program in Surrey. I lived with Len and Jean Roberts. They became like parents to me. I still call Jean mom.”

Now Gerry nodded agreement. “When I came to Surrey for a weekend,” he recalled, “I went to Len and Jean’s place, not to my parents. From them, and from Jim, my worker in Hedley, I learned about unconditional love. They didn’t reject me when I caused trouble. I wanted to earn their trust.”

When a worker with a Black Belt began teaching karate, Gerry joined. He trained rigorously, and eventually achieved his own Black Belt.

Gerry and Julie agreed participating in challenging recreation and work projects developed their confidence. Observing positive interactions between couples and how they dealt with their children enlarged their understanding of family. “Everything really changed in a big way when I let God come into my life,” Gerry said. “It was that way for me too,” Julie added.

As young adults, they applied to enter the Foundation’s Leadership School and were accepted. In time Gerry became a creative and trusted program coordinator, respected by the youths he worked with. Julie was a leader in the girls program.

With growing maturity and an understanding they didn’t need to repeat the errors of their parents, they married in 1980. Today they have 3 daughters and 8 grandchildren, all doing well. Gerry is currently on longterm disability due to an earlier back injury. Julie has worked at Walmart since 2006.

Leaving their past behind and striving to develop into responsible, contributing citizens has been an arduous journey at times, but they have persevered. “We work at our relationship,” Gerry told us. “And we work at who we are,” Julie added. The aforementioned disgruntled cabal of elderly men might be impressed.

Gerry St. Germain, Making A Difference

Gerry St. Germain at Stirling Creek Ranch, Hedley, BC

Former federal cabinet minister and Canadian Senator, Gerry St. Germain knows the feeling of being underestimated. In a conversation with Linda and me in his home at the Stirling Creek Ranch, not far from Hedley, he said, “many years ago I started dating a young woman. Her parents told her to stay away from me. He’s got Indian blood in him they said, and he won’t amount to anything.” This turned out to be fortuitous. In time he met and married Margaret, who became his lifelong partner in many adventures.

I was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba,” Gerry began. “My parents were renting a small cabin. The night they brought me home it was snowing and windy. The next morning my blanket was covered with snow. We were poor.”

He developed a way of looking at his circumstances that could be a beneficial template for youths today. “I got a lot of encouragement and help from the people in my life,” he said with evident conviction. “My mom and dad, my grandparents, and the whole family were my mentors, my support system. I learned to accept their counsel and to change.”

He also gives credit to the Grey Nuns and the Jesuits who educated him. “In one test,” he recalled, “the passing mark was 50 per cent. I got 65. They wouldn’t let me go home because I had not tried hard. I realized they were right. They were the best teachers.”

Gerry began setting goals early. “I knew I wanted to be a pilot, I knew I wanted to be a policeman. I also wanted to own a cattle ranch one day.”

At age 17 he enlisted in the Canadian Air Force. Not knowing he was being timed, he failed a written test. Even so, he told the officer he wanted to be an air controller. “No,” the officer said. “You will be washing trucks.” When he wrote the test again later, he achieved a high mark and went on to be a jet pilot. “It’s the best life,” he said. “I learned leadership skills that I wish we could impart to kids today.”

He still felt the call to law enforcement and in time joined the Vancouver police force. “I was an undercover cop assigned to the 100 block East Hastings beat. I learned to be tough. That’s what the people there respect.”

In the 1970’s, as real estate developers, he and his partner pre-sold several lots with a handshake for $40,000 each. When the prospectus came out, they were valued at $80,000. “We could have backed out, but I insisted we honour the deal. Word got around and it gave me a lot of credibility.”

His impressive success in business attracted attention and in 1983 he was urged to seek the Progressive Conservative nomination for the Mission-Port Moody riding, an NDP stronghold. At a large political gathering, wearing his signature stetson and not dressed in an expensive business suit like many of those present, he told people he intended to put his name forward and win in the coming by-election. Bob Ransford, later his trusted assistant and lifelong friend, initially dismissed him as a country bumpkin. He drew aside a cabinet minister and asked, “Who is this cowboy and who does he think he is? He doesn’t have a chance of winning.”

Gerry did win and in Ottawa became a friend of Brian Mulroney. The PM liked his fluency in English and French. He was appointed Caucus Chair and became known for his ability to fix sticky situations.

Later in his political career, he was named to the Senate and it was here he became active on behalf of Indigenous people. A Metis himself, he used the prestige of his position and his personal credibility to help bands develop alliances to negotiate more successfully with large corporations.

Now retired from politics, he is active part-time on the ranch and energetically supports Indigenous causes.

Gerry turned 80 last week. Looking back he told us, “It really isn’t about me. Margaret played an integral part in my achievements. People loved her. People took time to help me. Also, I have 3 heroes who inspire me to live with integrity and hope. They are Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, and Terry Fox.” For more about his numerous contributions to Indigenous people and all Canadians, I suggest reading his excellent biography, I Am A Metis.

Hedley Remembrance Day 2017

Bill Day delivering a Remembrance Day talk.

Bill Day and partner Lynn Wells returned recently from a tour of WWI battlefields. On Remembrance Day Bill delivered a talk, giving details about the places they saw, especially Passchendaele and Ypres. The notes below formed the basis of his talk.

Remembrance Day Speech Notes

What carried millions of young men and women to France and Belgium? Lure of excitement, praise, adulation, change, for young people who felt trapped or embedded in dull, boring activities in their place of birth. Told they’d be “Home for Christmas”.

Superiority of defensive technology – the machine gun, artillery, pill boxes, barbed wire. Poison gas of little significance overall. Aircraft of increasing significance.

Our journey included Normandy [Juno Beach], Caen, bridges, and then a chain of battlefields from the Great War stretching across the lowlands of North-West France and Belgium.

During the Great War Belgium was a focal point – the “weak point” in the defensive chain in France. Stopped at Ypres “Wipers” by British Expeditionary Force in 1914 – small but superbly trained riflemen.

Beaumont-Hamel July 1, 1916 Royal Newfoundland Regiment

Hedley to Bromley Rock = distance between Ypres and Passchendaele.

Penticton similar in size to Ypres

Over four years, about 1,000,000 killed and wounded in the Ypres “salient”.

Ypres was a medieval city with a huge earth and stone wall. Completely destroyed in 1915-1918. Completely rebuilt in 1920’s and /30’s by British and Belgian governments. All of the “medieval” and “old” buildings are modern.

German artillery in 1915 blew a huge gap in the eastern wall – now the size of the Menin gate and the base of the road to the East that the British hoped would lead to the penetration of the German lines and seizure of the Channel ports occupied by the Germans.

15,654 Canadian fallen at Passchendaele.

The British Imperial forces lost an estimated 275,000 casualties in the Passchendaele area to the German’s 220,000, making it one of the war’s most costly battles of attrition.

Passchendaele graveyards include Tyne Cot cemetery, 12,000 crosses and 35,000 missing.

Hedley Boys letters in this context are marvels of love and courtesy. The life at and near the “Front” was sheer hell and left no one untouched for the rest of their lives – short or long.

Verdun Somme Passchendaele

“On Guard” at the Hedley Cenotaph.
Jennifer Douglass, a local historian, read the names on the cenotaph,
and gave a little information for each one.
A young boy carefully places his poppy on the cenotaph.

Rick Wilsher, “Lottery Winner”

Rick Wilsher

Four years ago  Rick Wilsher died while watching the Grey Cup Game in the Hedley Community Club. He had donated a large screen for this type of event and a number of local people were present. His plan had been to leave at half time to go to his home several kilometers east of Hedley and feed his deaf dog. He delayed his departure when he realized that “Hedley,” the band named for this community, would be providing entertainment during the intermission. Had he not delayed, he would not have been sitting at our kitchen table last week talking about what he referred to as “my death.” I decided it’s a story worth telling because it could save lives.

Rick’s body provided no clues beforehand of what was about to happen to him. When he toppled over and fell to the floor that November 24, 2013, his face quickly turned blue. Fortunately several Hedley Fire Fighters and First Responders were sitting close by. Also, a retired cardiac care nurse.

I don’t remember anything about it,” Rick told Linda and me. “I just know I was dead as a door nail.”

What happened next is an amazing account of highly motivated, trained, well equipped volunteers and concerned citizens taking action. Cherie, the retired nurse saw that Rick’s face was turning blue. She immediately understood he wasn’t breathing and there was no pulse. “He’s dead,” she said to First Responder Doug Nimchuk, “Start compressions.”

While Doug was compressing Rick’s chest to create oxygen flow to the brain and other vital organs, Doug Bratt, co-owner of the Country Market, ran to the store to call 911. Hedley didn’t yet have cell service. Chantal, a First Responder and Russ, a Fire Fighter, ran to the Fire Department for the van which was equipped with oxygen and an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Russ cleared cars from the front of the Community Club so the ambulance would have a space.

The AED was hooked up and began issuing verbal instructions and information. “No pulse,” it said. “Stand back.” Then, “Shock the patient. Resume compressions.” After 2 shocks from the AED, administration of oxygen, and 9 minutes of compressions by Doug, Rick’s colour had returned and he had a pulse.

Before he was placed in the ambulance he gave house keys to a friend and asked him to feed the dog. He also paid the 50 cent bet he had made on the football game.

As a health professional Cherie had observed highly skilled practitioners. Her praise for the performance of the Hedley Fire Fighters and First Responders was unreserved.

Without them, Rick would not have made it,” she said. “They did everything they were trained to do. They keep up their certification. They have practise every Tuesday evening.”

Rick was transported first to Penticton Hospital, and then flown to St. Paul’s in Vancouver. The doctors received the report of the event as recorded by the AED.

After reading the report one of the doctors told Rick, “You should never have come out of that.”

AED & CPR training by Fire Fighter and First Responder, Doug Nimchuk

I became interested in this incident when Linda and I recently took the evening CPR and AED training offered by the Hedley Fire Department. Wanting to know more, I called Chris, owner of MediQuest in North Vancouver, a supplier of AEDs. He agreed with Cherie’s assessment. “When there is no breath and no heart beat, the individual is clinically dead. The heart doesn’t immediately cease electrical activity, but it is uncoordinated. Compressions need to begin immediately to keep electrical activity going and supply oxygen. The AED is also required very quickly. The survival rate drops 10% each minute before a shock is applied.

Chris next explained the functioning of the AED. “It determines whether there is electric activity. It makes the decision whether a shock should be delivered. A person cannot make the decision. This makes the device very safe, even for someone with little training. The survival rate 20 years ago was 2%. Today, if an AED shock is administered within 3 minutes, the survival rate is 75%.”

Rick now has a pacemaker with a built-in defibrillator. It monitors his heart. “If anything happens, it stops my heart and gives it a zap to start it.” He leaned forward and added, “I try to do all things in moderation now. Life is good. I feel so lucky, like I’ve won the lottery a dozen times.”

Hedley Gondola Project

Former Senator Gerry St. Germain & USIB Chief Rick Holmes

Hedley residents turned out in force last Saturday (Sept. 9, 2017) to learn about the gondola project under consideration by the Upper Similkameen Indian Band and a group of entrepreneurs, mostly from Texas. A couple of local ranchers, former Senator Gerry St. Germain and his son Jay, appear to be key in connecting the band with the Texans. The senior St. Germain has a wealth of business and political experience and connections.

Band Chief Rick Holmes said, “It’s an idea that has been talked about for at least 10 years. We are concerned for the entire community and we want people to be informed.” He told the audience he had become excited about the project after talking with Gerry St. Germain. “The band needs to generate more revenue,” he said. He had taken the investors from Texas to the former Mascot mine site and they believe the gondola concept has possibilities.

We already have contracts with the Squamish Nation,” Jack Matthews said. “Hedley is quaint and the view from the mine site is spectacular. There is still a lot of research to be done before we know if it’s feasible. We’ll have more answers in a year.”

One of the challenges for the proposed enterprise is where to situate the gondola at the bottom and also at the mine. At this time two sites are favoured. One is in the vicinity of the pump houses for the town’s water system. Lynn Wells, chair of the Hedley Improvement District registered her concern, citing the potential of pollution and other issues. The town has an easement allowing for its pumps. The land is owned by Barrick Gold.

The other site the group likes is on Lot 2900, located on the far side of the Colonial Lodge and the Gold House. I’ve been told this property is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Mines.

The business group recognizes that the tourist season here is limited, due to weather. Initially they talked about “layering.” They mentioned building a zip line and offering gold panning.

During the question period, some interest was expressed in the project, also a number of concerns. One resident drew chuckles when he said, “I don’t want people looking down on me when I’m sun bathing in the nude in my back yard.” He likely doesn’t sun bathe in the nude but his objection was understood by all.

It was apparent that one of the main issues for a lot of people was the likely disruption of the peaceful way of life we enjoy here. People were nervous about the possibility of hotels and restaurants being added to the gondola concept to make it more attractive and profitable.

Several of the business group said they want to consider the concerns of local people. Gerry St. Germain said, “I don’t want the town to change in a big way.”

At the end of the meeting I said that for the Hedley Gondola project to proceed and be good for the Band and the town, the promoters will need to win our trust. They will be under tremendous pressure to add amenities to attract tourists. This will certainly be disturbing to many residents. We came here, at least in part, to escape the noise and pace of city life. Promises about not changing the town in a big way will be kept only if the people who make them are of good character.

Rededication Of Hedley Cenotaph, Part 2

The Lloyd family, descendants of Lieutenant T.C. Knowles.

The Lloyd family, descendants of Lieutenant T.C. Knowles, came to celebrate his war service. He served in WWI, finishing in the RAF. Upon his return to Hedley, he became the town’s postmaster.

Beverly Knowles & Anne Lloyd (nee Knowles), daughters of Lieutenant T.C. Knowles
Sandy Wightman (grandson of Alec Jack), Moira Herold (daughter of A. Jack), Stephanie Malahoff (granddaughter of A. Jack).

Captain Alec Jack came to Canada in 1913, indentured to the Bank of British North America in Hedley. In 1915 he signed up for war service with 16 other Hedley boys.  He saw action in the Battle of the Somme and Vimy Ridge, plus other battles. He proved himself as a courageous leader and was awarded the Military Cross. Sandy Wightman has done considerable research concerning Captain Alec Jack and the Canadian war effort. (The foregoing information about Captain Alec Jack comes from this research).

Hedley Postmaster Ruth Woodin reading a war letter.

After the rededication ceremony, there was an English tea for the public in the backyard of the Hedley Historic Museum. A number of letters written by Hedley Boys serving in Europe were read. Ruth Woodin read 2 letters concerning Walter Matthews after he failed to return from a bombing mission (WWII). The first was written by his RCAF commanding officer. The second one came from the Canadian War Office.

The following material is excerpted from the research notes of Jennifer Douglass & Andy English of Hedley.

“In May of 1944, F.O. Matthews’ squadron was involved with the bombing of key strategic sites in preparation for the D-Day invasion of Normandy on the coming 6th of June. After one such mission, Matthews’ plane failed to return from a bombing raid on the Le Mans railway yards in France. It was determined the plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and crashed south of Le Mans, near a village called Monce au Belin. All on board were killed instantly. A neighbouring French woman laid flowers on the site of the crash for a long time afterwards and sent news as such to the RCAF in Canada.

F.O. Matthews was killed in action on 23 May 1944. He was 28 years of age. He is buried in a collective grave with four of his crew mates at Le Mans West Cemetery, France.”

 

 

Rededication Of Hedley Cenotaph

Researchers Jennifer Douglass & Andy English

Hedley residents, Jennifer Douglass and Andy English, devoted approximately 3 1/2 years to researching the names on the local cenotaph. They discovered 2 additional names that should have been included, and these have recently been added. When Jennifer and Andy speak of the young men who were killed in action in World War I, it is as though they know them personally and think of them as friends.

During the time of their research, they developed the Hedley Cenotaph Committee and attracted a lot of interest and support in the community. This summer the unstinting efforts of the committee resulted in the refurbishing of the cenotaph, including replacement of some lead lettering. In a statement to the Keremeos OK Falls Review, Andy said, “Many people helped and donated to the restoration fund, from local Hedleyites who had known the cenotaph all their lives, to people who recently moved to the area but who recognized the importance of preserving this memorial and for what it represented. Families who had lived in Hedley but had moved away contributed, as did relatives of many of the Hedley men who served in the wars. The biggest contribution came from Veterans Affairs Canada.”

Seaforth Highlanders Regiment, Vancouver; representatives from Princeton Royal Canadian Legion Colour Guard, Keremeos Royal Canadian Legion Colour Guard, Erris Volunteer Fire Dept., Hedley Volunteer Fire Dept.

On Saturday August 26, 2017 the Hedley community celebrated the completion of the refurbishing of the cenotaph, and took time to remember the fallen men whose names are inscribed on it.

Chief Rick Holmes of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band spoke about band member Jack Lorenzetto, who was killed in World War I.
MP Dan Albas, Chaplain Sandra Lawlor, Princeton Royal Canadian Legion, & MLA Linda Larson

Duane Fritchie, Aquabike World Champion

Mary & Duane Fritchie

I suspect a lot of macho males have cast envious glances at Duane Fritchie’s Triathlon sculpted physique. It’s the type of body men’s magazines delight in featuring on their front cover. When I first saw him, for a fleeting moment I actually wondered what I would need to do to achieve that trim waist and V shaped torso.

Linda and I met Duane, a World Champion Triathlon competitor, and his wife Mary in Hedley last week. They had driven from Lee’s Summit, Missouri so he could compete in the prestigious 2017 Penticton ITU (International Triathlon Union) Multisport World Championships this past weekend. We liked them immediately and invited them to our home.

Duane began his triathlon adventure after watching a man from his community compete in a race. “I felt it was something I could do,” he said. “I was already riding my bike and running. I wasn’t a good swimmer though, and at age 31 it was a bit late to become great. Fortunately the swimming coach at the high school where I was a teacher offered to help.”

Now 67, Duane’s rigorous commitment has produced gratifying results. “My first triathlon was in Hawaii in 1982,” he told us. “At that time you didn’t have to qualify. Since then I’ve participated in about 200 competitions in places like Australia, New Zealand, England, the U.S. and Canada.” In response to my prodding he said, “In 2001 I won the World Triathlon Championship in Edmonton. My whole family was there. It was fantastic.”

I asked about his training regimen. “When Mary joined Weight Watchers,” he said, “I noticed she was shedding pounds. Following her eating pattern, I cut back on carbohydrates and added protein, mostly lean meat. My mental preparation includes visualization. I mentally see myself doing the swimming strokes just right. I set goals. I try to stay positive and always believe I’ll do well.”

In regard to what he hoped to achieve in the weekend event he said, “ My goal in the Penticton race is to place first overall, not just in my age category. I know it’s a long shot, but I’m strong in windy conditions. If there is wind, it’s not impossible.” He is definitely a believer, but also pragmatic. “I’ll still be pleased if I finish in the top 3 in my category.”

Until recently, Duane raced mostly in triathlons. With the introduction of the aquabike event, 3 km swimming and 120 km cycling, he dropped the running. “Aquabike is geared to individuals 50 and over,” he explained. “A lot of men aren’t eager to run after hitting 50. It’s hard on the joints. Aquabike makes it easier to continue competing. This event in Penticton is the first World Championship in Aquabike.”

Talking about his bike, Duane said, “Competitive racers use deep dish wheels. They’re designed to shed wind. These wheels alone cost $4,000. I have about $10,000 invested in this bike.” I observed with chagrin that the wheels on my old mountain bike bear little resemblance to the wheels on his bike.

Duane Fritchie showing the Cervelo P5 bike he rode to become the 2017 World Champion in Aquabike in his age category.

“A good bike is essential,” Duane said, “but you need people to support you. Mary is my greatest source of encouragement. When I’m riding with others, she drives the support vehicle. Also, our 3 daughters urge me to train with them. I ride 200 to 400 miles a week. Along the route, I watch for places to swim.”

For Duane and Mary, their efforts are not just about being fit, racing, or winning world championships.

“We hope our example will persuade young people and older ones to believe for more,” they agreed. “And,” Mary added, “we’re involved in enabling people with MS to ride.”

The MS involvement began when Les Gatrel, a champion wrestler and businessman, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. “The wrestlers supported him and we worked together to get Les on a bike,” Duane said. “Initially he rode tandem with me. Now he rides his own bike, 4,000 miles in the last 3 years. Along the way, Wrestling MS was established. Now the organization provides MS patients with bikes, hope and support to help them regain balance, strength and freedom. All at no cost to them.

When we talked with Duane and Mary last Wednesday, their close bond was evident. On Saturday he finished strong overall and captured first place in his age category. We are proud to have had these world champion partners in our community.

 

Nickel Plate Reunion In Hedley

Former residents of Nickel Plate townsite.

This past weekend Hedley was the scene of a pretty unique reunion. Participants came from various points in the province. With the exception of one individual, as children they had all lived at the Nickel Plate townsite, high on the mountain overlooking Hedley. Their parents worked for the Kelowna Exploration Company, the entity which operated the highly lucrative Nickel Plate Mine.

The mine ceased operations in 1955, so these people are now seniors. Although they’ve had several reunions previously, some had not connected since the mining days. Bob Richards of Penticton, whose father was a foreman at the mine, largely organized the event. Now age 74, he has worked in mines himself and has also earned his living as a wrestler. Like the others, he spoke fondly of his childhood years living in the Nickel Plate community.

Bob Richards

I was one when my parents moved up,” he said. “We left when I was 12. Those were good years. The mine provided a bowling alley and a skating rink. It helped us create a ski run, and much more. I attended school up there until grade 6.”

Patsy (Williams) Ehlbeck

Patsy Ehlbeck (nee Williams), spoke of her father (known by miners as Dibbs) who was mine superintendent during the family’s years at the town site. Her parents had given the Museum a painting of the family home on the mountain. This was of particular interest to Patsy.

Garnet Graham

Garnet Graham, now living in Prince George, said “There were about 40 families up there, plus singles. My dad worked in the mine and is mentioned in Mines of the Eagle Country. It was a great place to be a kid. We had lots of freedom. Sometimes we rode our bikes to Nickel Plate Lake. I have awesome memories of that time.”

Ore was sent down the tram line in skips (ore cars) to the Stamp Mill on the periphery of Hedley. The skips were controlled by the Hoist Man at Central Station part way up the line. “There was one house at Central, and this is where our family lived,” said Carl Lofroth, now of Terrace. For this reason he didn’t have as much interaction with the children of the Nickel Plate community. Even so, there are plenty of great memories. “We had Disney movies,” he said, “and there were Chinese dinners. We went camping together and had picnics.” He doesn’t recall any quarreling. When he was 6, his family moved down into Hedley where he attended school.

Jim Munro

Jim Munro lived at Nickel Plate from age 9 to 14. His dad was the camp administrator. “Kids had the run of the town,” he recalled, “but we couldn’t get too far out of line. Everyone knew who your parents were. It was like having 40 moms and 40 dads.”

Carl Lafroth

During the open mike session, there were a number of references to riding the skip down to Hedley. “People would ride the skip down and do their shopping,” Carl Lafroth explained. “On the way down, we sat on the ore. This allowed us to have a great view of the valley. On the return trip up the mountain, the skip would be empty. We’d be lower and couldn’t see much.”

Don Armstrong provided 2 cakes. This one had a photo of the stamp mill. The other showed the trestle bridge crossing the Similkameen river.

After many laughs, the reunion group was joined by locals for an outdoor roast beef dinner hosted by Don Armstrong and assisted by Judy Turner, Sharon Sund and others, all of Hedley. In the evening the Black Birds provided music for a street dance.