Sunday, May 5, 2019

Chemainus, BC ~ Heritage Murals

Chemainus, BC is a small town on the east coast of Vancouver Island that sits between Nanaimo and Victoria.  Its claim to fame has to be the 44 outdoor murals that are seen all over town sharing the rich cultural history of the town.

Early logging town
Chemainus was originally founded as a logging town in 1858 and still considers the forestry industry its main one but in the early 1980’s the big mill shut down and the town was facing the recession than many others at that time did. 

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The murals were a way to hopefully attract tourism and it worked.  The government grants helped and the talented artists worked their way around town, covering sides of buildings that would tell the story of some of the early days.

Chemainus First Nations
Chemainus is the home of the Original First Nations and the name comes from a shaman and prophet “Tsa-meean-is” meaning “broken chest”.  The legend says that he overcame a large wound in his chest to become a chief. 
Logging with steer and manpower
The Chinese were there and worked in “bull gangs” in the forestry taking large logs to the boats then later also worked to build the railway.  Perhaps the "bull gang" name derived from use of cattle but the dictionary definition is "a crew of unskilled laborers".

Memories of a Chinese Boy
The Chinese, Japanese and East Indians blended their cultures with the Scots and Germans working in the mines, forests and fishing.  In the 1880’s the railway was built and by the 1920’s the population grew to 600. 

Temporary housing for road builders 1912
This mural shows temporary housing for the work crews that came to build the roads in 1912.  The reminds me of a summer cabin my dad built in a logging camp in Fountain Valley one summer so we could spend our holidays with him.

First school house 1883
The school was built for grades 1-8 with one teacher in 1883 who taught all eight school age children of the town.  It was moved to be a private home in 1928 but has been saved by the Historical Society before demolition was to happen and moved back to its original location.  The oldest building of the area still has the original floor and is open for visits on weekends.

Chemainus Hospital 
The mural on the Chemainus Medical Clinic shows the hospital in 1902 and depicts actual people who were staff or residents.  Many of the murals do the same for those who were part of the history.

Telephone Company circa 1915
This mural shows two ladies who worked for the telephone company and one of them is the great grandmother of a friend.This makes things quite personal for those whose ancestors were part of the history of this interesting town and shown on the murals.

Waterfall Park
The downtown area, which was not developed until after WW2 leads us to the Waterfall Park.  The park is part of the original mill’s manager’s house and also offered access to the lumber yard which is shown in the entrance mural. The manager’s house was torn down in 1952 and the area has since become a very inviting park for the young and old.

HMS Reindeer 1869

I cannot possibly show all of them but a display of Chemainus murals would not be complete without one of the early ships that passed through the Stewart Channel or visited the shores of Chemainus.

Chemainus now has a population of 3900 people living within 4.02 km2 (1.55 sq. mi), a small town that offers plenty of sights, activities and attractions here and in the area. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Island Carvings ~ Vancouver Island, BC

Vancouver Island is home to many carvings done over the years.  The totem poles are the most colorful, as a rule and there are so many of them in Duncan, but the Island also has different carvings in other towns so we will now have a tour of Island carvings.

City of Totems
Duncan is considered the City of Totems.  With the world’s largest outdoor collection, they have earned that name and within this small city there are plenty to enjoy seeing.  The big growth in totems began in 1985 and now allows carvers and their families to tell the story that the totem tells in dedicated signage.  Duncan also shows there is cultivated cross-cultural appreciation and co-operation as these communities come together.

The Feast
The Feast, which was carved in 1987 is 3.6m tall and tells a local Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) legend.  The story says that the Killer Whale was eating all the salmon in the river so they called on the Thunderbird to help them.  The Thunderbird, Tzinquow, took the Killer Whale up to the top of the   mountain and ate him.  Spirit Helpers are also part of the carving.

Raven's Gift
Doug LaFortune, also known as William Horne, grew up in Duncan and began carving at the age of 19.  He is quoted as saying, “I strive to do better every time I do something”.  Doug with help from his brothers Perry, Howard and Aubrey carved this collection in Duncan, including the Raven’s Gift.  These ones are on display near the Cowichan Valley Museum.

Eagle carving
This may be one of my favorite carvings.  The bald headed eagle is such a majestic proud looking bird, and I love to see the real ones and this is a great replica and very lifelike.  We stayed at Seal Bay RV Park in Comox Valley, a privately owned park which is off the main roads and not on the Bay, a 30 minute walk from the park, but we sure did enjoy the park and all its’ many carvings. 

carvings at Seal Bay RV Park
I understand the owner of this great RV Park is the carver of all of these incredible works of art.  His talent is shown on carvings displayed around the park, and only a few are shown here.  The seals are the base of a large table dedicated to the carver’s son and also beautifully done.  There are many beautiful carvings, including the one of the eagle.

Campbell River pole climber
I must admit that when I first saw this pole climber, my quick glance led me to believe he was real.  Once the sun was no longer in my eyes, I could see he was not.  Quite a sight in downtown Campbell River, though.

Campbell River Shoreline Arts
The Campbell River Shoreline Arts Society has an annual chainsaw carving competition.  We were not there to see the carvings being done but saw the results of the 2018 competition, “Transformation on the Shore”.  The background is the Discovery Passage, the view couldn’t be better for this display.

Elk Falls - Campbell River
This lonely fellow was once part of the Campbell River Shoreline Arts competition but now stands at the entrance of Elk Falls, ready to pose for photos with the visitors to this area.  

Tyee Spit graveyard

This graveyard sits on the Tyee Spit at Campbell River and honors several with totem poles.  I wasn’t able to learn anything about this but the history could be very interesting to learn.  It appears to have been here for many years and has a very diverse selection of headstones. 

Needless to say, there are many talented carvers on Vancouver Island who share their talents for us to enjoy.  I hope these are enjoyed for many years to come. 

To see more of our visit to Vancouver Island, click here.


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