"A detailed, thorough history of the island. . ."
Salt Spring: Big, Bold and Beautiful
Salt Spring, The Story Of An Island is as close to a comprehensive social history of the Island as we are likely to see for a while. Painstakingly researched by an accomplished technical writer, The Story Of An Island is a shining example of how to write a book of history. I like this book, from the dust jacket illustration by E.J. Hughes, to the wonderful selection of historic photographs, to the way that Kahn has chosen to organize and present the material.
Salt Spring Island was inhabited for thousands of years by people with a rich culture before European contact. This is where the story begins for Charles Kahn. Then came the fur traders with a host of nationalities and races. And the web of the story spins out along the years. In dealing with the small number of settlers on the Island in the early years, Mr. Kahn gives the names a personality and makes them matter to us. Their successes, losses and quirks of character are important because they somehow shaped the reality we see today. History is a dynamic continuum not just an event.
I am fascinated by the details; the amenities, taken for granted by some, were hard won by these Islanders at a cost of time and energy that semi-isolation exacts from those who choose it as a way of life. Transportation, potable water, education, medical services, postal and other communication services, policing, social centers, and churches do not appear as dry statistics but as the stuff of people's lives. The visible evidence of their desire to better themselves and their children's future.
This is also a book for newcomers who sometimes only see what's wrong and think
that only they can set it right. By reviewing the past's labors of love we can
have deeper respect for Island culture, see where we fit in, and proceed cautiously
into the future.
-John Wiznuk, The Reporter
Canadian Book Review Association
The largest of British Columbia's southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring is well known for its resident artists, vacation amenities, and quiet rural lifestyle. Less well-known, even to the residents, is its extraordinary history of multiracial settlement, development, and resistance to development. The members of the Salt Spring Historical Society began researching and recording segments oftheir island's story as a project in the late 1980s. They subsequently turned their material over to the author (a member ofthe society and a Salt Spring resident himself) for compilation into asingle work suitable for publication. The result is this well researched and carefully documented history of Salt Spring and its residents, from ancient aboriginal settlers to 1998 developers. Happily, it is also a lively and entertaining narrative, full of colorful characters and reminiscences, and illustrated with many historical photographs. Oral histories, government records, newspaper reports, and ships' logs impart the flavor of the times along with their strands of the story. The selected bibliography and notes include hundreds of published and unpublished sources, and there is detailed index. In compiling and documenting his history for "Salt Spring Island residents - past, present and future" as a scholarly work, the author has also produced a new and intriguing piece of B.C. history.
Salt spring history comes to life in Kahn's fascinating new book
Interested in how your street got its name?
Want a peek at some of Salt Spring's colourful historical characters?
Curious about archeological sites, early transportation the island's farming history, of BC Hawaiian, and Japanese settlers?
Anyone with questions about Salt Spring will likely find the answers in Charles Kahn's fascinating and informative new book, Salt Spring: The Story of an Island.
With its 122 photographs and numerous maps, the 344-page book is the most comprehensive look at Salt Spring ever written. It begins with the first known aboriginal habitation at Long Harbour in 1800-200 BC, and works its way in engaging detail right up to 1998.
And although, I don't consider myself a history buff, I found the book and its presentation extremely interesting. There is nothing dry about Kahn's book - it is full to the brim with life. Many islanders will enjoy reading about people known today only as names on maps; others will recognize friends, families and island landmarks,
Building on a foundation laid by the Salt Spring Island Historical Society, Kahn spent two solid years researching and writing the book. His attention to detail and desire for accuracy shines throughout the pages.
Kahn has lived here only six years but probably knows more about the island than its oldest old-timers - a fact that became apparent, when he interviewed some long-time island families.
"I'd say, 'look, I know more about your family than my own!'"
Kahn says his book contains the type of information he would like to have read upon moving into the community.
"I see a piece of land and wonder who settled there. I find out about people and I want to know more.?
Kahn's history of Salt Spring is more frequently quoted sources are Bea Hamilton who "wrote very colourfully" in her 1969 history of the island; Reverend E.F. Wilson's many writings, and the amusing and well-crafted written memories of Leonard Tolson.
Kahn's 60 or so live interviews brought him close to a number of the island's old-timers. Some of these people - Bob Patterson, Ruby (Lacy) Alton, Kimiko Murakami, Chuck Hotel and Ron Lee - have died since their interviews, leaving Kahn with a "real sense of loss."
"As you talk to these people, you are catapulted back in time it's really fascinating," he adds.
Unfortunately, the very nature of interviewing old-timers led to disappointments. Kahn called to interview longtime islander Dick Royal just two days before he died.
But researching the book also introduced Kahn to many colourful characters. Among his favourites was the "larger than life", Harry Wright Bullock, "The Squire of Salt Spring," to whom he dedicates an entire chapter.
The section on Bullock, like each of the book's other 17 chapters, is augmented with boxed insert and photographs. The inserts - usually anecdotal-type information - are set apart from the rest of the text graphically.
Kahn says both and the book's numerous subheads are borrowed from his background in textbook writing, and help make a book more readable.
The book offers a selection of really great photographs, many gleaned from the archives, and others from private family collections. For the chapter on recent island history, Kahn used photographs taken by Driftwood photographer Derrick Lundy - a good choice in my biased opinion.
But for those interested in chewing on island history, only bias needed for
Kahn's book is the love of a good read.
-Susan Lundy, Salt Spring Driftwood
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